"Take your time here, too, and let the desert take hold of you. Joshua Tree National Park provides a haven from everyday routines, space for self-discovery, a refuge for the human spirit, and a sense of place in the greater scheme of things."
- National Park Service
I've spent two of the three weekends of 2009 exploring the nooks and crannies of Joshua Tree National Park. Given the way things are going, I have a feeling I'll be there most weekends through February, and maybe even into March. There are lots of nooks and crannies to be explored.
My first visit to Joshua Tree was in 2005 with my friend Lizo. While that was a great trip, we didn't have much time to explore and probably spent less than 36 hours in the park. We drove the main road, camped at two of the campgrounds and did a short hike to an oasis. Back then, the park seemed to me to be filled with vast swaths of inaccessible desert landscapes. Boy was I wrong. Joshua Tree is criss-crossed with dirt roads and hiking "corridors", as they call them, leading into all sorts of exciting locations. In addition, a great portion of the park is wilderness, open for off-trail bushwhacking, which is surprisingly easy in the desert. See a big rock out there that entices you? No problem -- pull over and walk towards it. In 30 minutes, turn around and be amazed how far you've made it.
Getting to Joshua Tree requires a 2-hour drive to escape the L.A. Basin, often with rush hour traffic, but once there it feels amazingly isolated. Arrive on a Friday night, lose your worries in the milky way, soak in the desert on Saturday and Sunday, return to civilization Sunday night.
Rinse and repeat.